“Don Tedesco “An extraordinary person who lives free within his own cage.”
Against all odds, for thirty years Mamaroneck’s greatest showman
brought incredible energy, perseverance and flair to his work and play
as the leader of ACTIONVILLE.
He created, nurtured and sustained the program by overcoming innumerable obstacles.
ACTIONVILLE will be forever remembered by those who elected to be part of its history as a place that possessed a joyous and lyrical quality from beginning to end.”
Dr. Calvert Schlick
(Former Superintendent of Instruction – Mamaroneck School System)
“Actionville” Testimonials from Students
“Actionville was all about ‘Action’. As we learned about American History we would reenact events. I remember one of the events was held at Mamaroneck’s Harbor Island. We were studying the Revolutionary War in class and during that years annual Harbor Adventure, Paul Revere was to make an appearance. He was going to ride on horseback to warn everyone that the “British were coming”! Somehow Mr. T was able to borrow a live horse for the ride, but no staff member had much experience riding. One of the teachers volunteered, because he had ridden “a few times”! Well the horse must have thought the real British were trying to catch it, because it took off at top speed. Our Paul Revere did his best to hold on and get the horse to slow down just before both almost entered the waters of Long Island Sound!”
Richard DeThomas (Actionville Student 1971 -1973)
“I was so fortunate to be in Actionville during it’s first two years of existence. As a fifth grader in 1971, my previous experience with education was traditional and old school. Arriving in Actionville on the first day of school was a bit like Dorothy stepping into Munchkin Land. My life went from black and white to color. I’ll never forget the bright sign that announced “Welcome to Actionville – Where Learning is Made a Joy!” From that moment on every lesson was an experience. Every country we studied included a class trip to a place that was reminiscent of the country, a potluck showcasing the foods from that country as well as creative and cooperative projects. Major events in history were learned through reenactments. Archeology included digging in the dirt. It was so exciting to let my imagination go as I was digging. What would I find? What would it mean?
We learned Greek mythology by writing plays about myths, performing
them to the class and, of course, that led to Oscar nominations and the
Academy Awards. Music appreciation meant a ‘night at the opera’. We
dressed up, watched Carmen and had dinner. We also listened to different
contemporary songs, then wrote creatively about them.
I could go on and on with my wonderful memories. Suffice to say those learning years were indeed joyful and I have retained more from those two years of school than from any other years in my early childhood education.
I was a lucky kid!”
Laura Frieder (Student 1971- 1973)
“Throughout my years at Westchester Day School I have had many wonderful teachers, but my favorite teacher was Mr. Tedesco, my fifth grade English studies teacher. Mr. T taught in an interesting, interactive and unusual way. He took us on many field trips to see and understand more clearly what we were learning. We also learned innovative ways to do math and presented these methods to younger grades. If a student ever had a problem or didn’t understand a lesson, Mr. T would go over to them privately and discuss it with them. One of the most important ways that Mr. Tedesco has had an impact on me is that he taught me better study skills, and that I should believe in myself. I later participated in Peer Tutoring due to the influence that Mr. T’s methods have had on me. Mr. T was the most inspiring teacher I will ever have, and I will never forget him.”
Rebecca Malits (Student 2007)
Actionville was one of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had, I wish it was still around for my kids and my grandkids to experience what I experienced. To sum it up, a place where learning was a fun experience.
Sal Porretto (Student)
“Actionville” Testimonials from Educators
“It’s no secret that one of Donald Tedesco’s heroes is the cultural icon Walt Disney. Actionville was a completely immersive program for both faculty and children: one that blended curriculum, education, team work and fun into each of the kids learning experiences! One of my favorite memories was the unique seating arrangements in T’s classroom. The old claw foot bathtub and the reclining lazy boy stand out as the most popular ones kids would take turns being able to use while in the classroom setting. Separately, I was impressed by the year in which the 5th and 6th grade students studied the French Revolution, raised money for (the nonprofit) Broadway Cares, took a class trip to see “Les Miserables” on Broadway and then met with the cast afterwards to ask any questions they had about becoming professional actors. As you can see, the children were learning more than just what history and Marie Antoinette’s beheading had to offer them on the topic. They were learning to support the arts as well as explore any interests they may have in acting – along the way! Actionville challenged kids to be their best, work collaboratively and be open to learning from a whole new perspective. Can you sense the influence Walt might have had on Don’s vision for education? Learning doesn’t have to be boring. Being able to motivate students outside of a text book is a unique gift that Don shared with his children.”
Ron Cherry (Teacher 1996 – 1999)
“When, in the late summer of 1990, I was going through the hiring process to become a math teacher in Actionville, I found myself being interviewed by the then Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Calvert Schlick. He asked me many interesting and thoughtful questions to which I gave serious and well considered answers. He then turned to me and asked if I had nay questions. I thought for a moment and then asked what makes Actionville unique? Without skipping a beat he responded, ‘The Food’!”
Marjorie Gross Margolis (Actionville Math Teacher – 1990-2001)
“Actionville” Testimonials from Parents
“Actionville’s founder, director and head -teacher, Don Tedesco, and
his staff team-teach the academic subjects while integrating the basic
disciplines. For “The West”, students read western novels, write diaries
of their covered wagon journeys, calculate distances on wagon trails
and research weather problems a wagon train might encounter. Students
work individually and cooperatively to research, organize and present
what they have learned.
To support the program, Actionville invites the students’ families – parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins – to share in the excitement of educational expositions, conventions and celebrations.
At its most recent World Exposition, one student’s younger cousins performed Nigerian dances, another’s brother produced Belgian waffles and a neighbor of a relative’s friend explained how he climbed Nepal’s Mount Everest. A mother and daughter built a Jamaican shack, a father and son played English viola-lute duets while hundreds of community visitors shared in the “joy of learning”.
Is the program succeeding? Does involving parents, students, teachers and the community work? One measure of success comes through observation. Experience the intellectual excitement of an Actionville exposition. View the fifth grader presenting her analysis of dog and human saliva samples collected for an experiment she devised and implemented for the biannual EEE, or explore the Internet with a sixth grader displaying a web page he designed to organize reference materials on India; watch as children entering the program struggle over early essays and graduate two years late having ‘published’ a novel.
It’s not easy, but it’s simple. Bring together teachers, parents, students and the community together and good things will happen for the students.”
Ned Benton (Parent of three children who attended Actionville in the 1990’s)
“Actionville’s program has always been marked by an integrated
curriculum, whereby a theme or broad topic is studied from the
perspective of the various classic academic disciplines. For example, a
topic like astronomy might be studied not only from a scientific point
of view, but also as it applies to math, language arts, reading, social
studies, art and music. Mr. Tedesco, or ‘T’ as he is universally known,
believes in providing as much “hands on” activity as possible in order
to increase students’ motivation and to encourage them to become
immersed in the educational process.
On Monday, June 18, 2001, Actionville will graduate its last class of students, all of whom will be members of the seventh grade teams in the fall. Each and every boy and girl, will carry the special memories and unique intellectual and life skills that the Actionville experience has brought to them.”
M. Casey (Parent – 2000-2001)
“My son was a student of Mr. Tedesco’s in an alternative learning
program called Actionville, where children learned by doing. The program
was created by Mr. T, and its philosophy was incorporated into the
curriculum in many ways.
My favorite example of how the program worked is demonstrated by the election of the President of the United States. The students created political parties and party values, chose candidates and formulated platforms. The candidates took their campaigns on the road, had motorcades through the village, participated in debates and held fundraisers. They learned about the Electoral College and on Election Day voted in actual voting booths. After the election, there was an inauguration day and an inaugural ball. My son, now 31 years old, still remembers that ‘campaign’ but more important, he learned the process in an unforgettable way.
It seems to me that the hallmark of a good educator is what his or her students take the love of learning with them into the world. Don Tedesco’s students take the love of learning with them, and they pass it on to those they meet on their life journeys. He’s an incredible teacher, and a wonderful example of what an educator should be.”
Toni Pergola Ryan (Parent – 1980’s)
Time recently ran an article about education, and the premise was that in third grade students start making the transition from learning to read to reading to learn.
I’d love to see education focus more on teaching kids to learn how to learn, and then slowly removing the scaffolding while encouraging them to grow. Too many kids leave high school and the biggest thing they’ve learned is how to game the system.
My daughter attended an incredible 2-year public school program called Actionville when she was in 5th and 6th grade. In that program, children learned how to become independent learners. The teacher, Mr. Tedesco, actually won the Disney award as the nation’s top elementary education teacher her second year.
Our school system in Mamaroneck, NY closed down the program just after my daughter went on to Middle School, the year after Mr. T won the award, primarily due to district infighting and jealousy. That’s the lesson I don’t want education to learn.
Mitch Weisburgh (Parent)